Be a Young Leader (No Matter What Your Age)

Sometimes it seems like there’s no way to keep up in today’s world. As a leader, one can easily feel pressured to stay on top of trends, a somewhat exhausting and neverending endeavor.

There is, however, another way to ensure that you are youthful in your leadership, no matter what your age:

Never compromise on your ideals.

This may sound simple, but staying true to and inspired by your ideals can be hard--really hard. When faced with the pressures of your daily life, you may not even realize when you are letting those ideals slip.

The Heartless Leaders

(are you one?)

So many leaders lose their youthful motivation and idealism as they age. Perhaps it’s the onslaught of so many challenges or the nagging feeling that you’ll never truly accomplish your goals. For some reason, at some point along your journey, or perhaps slowly, over time, you accepted defeat.

And though you may still be going through the motions, your heart is no longer in your work. This heartless leadership may be more common in older, more jaded leaders, but is something that can affect anyone at any age, especially those who have gone through particularly challenging experiences and who have seen little success.

You may scrape by as a heartless leader, you may do alright, but you’ll never be great.

The former Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, once went to visit a woman in a nursing home who was 103 years old. She was bright and full of life, and the Rabbi asked her for her secret to longevity. She responded. “Never be afraid to learn something new!”

You can be 103 and still be learning, inspiring, growing, and sharing. Or, you can be 30 and cynical, blaming others for your failures, and giving up on your ideals.

The Ever-Young Leaders

Ideals, not trends, are what inspire us and push great leaders forward. They did so for humanity throughout the most oppressive times in history, such as Stalinist Russia, Communist China, and WWII.

They do so for us, as individuals, through the challenging times in our lives: such as in school, your first months home with a newborn baby, after the death of a loved one, or when faced with a huge obstacle in your work life.

Ideals also keep us excited from day to day and give us the power and the strength to continue to rise no matter how many times we fall--as leaders, and as human beings.

Great leaders stay young by staying true to their ideals, no matter what the cost. These leaders never give up, despite the inevitable challenges that come their way.

Shaving Years Off Your Leadership

We now know that the truly young and with-it leaders are inspired and motivated by their uncompromised ideals.

But if you’ve already moved into the heartless category, don’t despair, you can return to your young and inspired state with the following steps.

  1. Clarify your ideals. Sit down with a pen and paper and actually write them out. Think about what speaks to the core of why you do what you do, or at least why you initially decided to do it. If you are used to going through the motions, this can be a little painful, but it will definitely be powerful.
  2. Measure your current leadership against your ideals. Be honest here--is your leadership informed by your ideals? Or by something else (money, laziness, convenience, outside pressure). Get clarity on what is going well and what needs to be changed,
  3. Take action. This is not something you can do all at once, so be gentle with yourself. Think of what small steps you can take to slowly guide your leadership back in line with your ideals. Start with one thing, see how it goes, and slowly re-align over time.

Putting your ideals first, and everything else second, may be hard, but it will ultimately give you more vitality and energy as a leader.

Lead with your heart, and you’ll never grow old or outdated.